Where it All Began: the Pocket-Watch

Welcome to our penultimate blog, where we will be discussing possibly the most important invention in the world of horology, the pocket-watch. Without this miniature clock, the wristwatch would never have been realised – after all, the only difference is the swapping of a chain for a strap. In this article we’ll be delving into the history of the pocket-watch, with particular reference to their value today.

Although the wristwatch attributes its roots towards the latter half of the 19th century, the pocket-watch was first seen hundreds of years before. Indeed the first portable clocks came into existence around 1500-1510, thanks to the creation of the ‘spring-powered’ mechanism. However, it wasn’t until later in the 16th century, with the invention of the fusee and the introduction of brass that they became light enough to be carried in one’s pocket.

We’ve talked in-depth about the provenance of watch manufacturers, attributing value to a watch’s place within the horological timeline. As such, antique pocket-watches have significant value, as all the main innovations in watchmaking and complications are derived from them. For instance, the introduction of the balance spring in 1657, made watches 10-times more accurate. Then came the bimetallic temperature compensated balance wheel, which lessened the impact of heat on a watch’s accuracy. Indeed, the first ever self-winding mechanisms, known as ‘perpétuelles’, were applied to pocket-watches by Abraham-Louis Breguet as long ago as 1780!

Are Pocket-Watches More Valuable than Wristwatches?

The answer to this question depends purely on circumstance. The latest innovations from leading watch manufacturers include grand or even ultimate complications, and are made in very limited number. As a result, certain wristwatches have reached astronomical prices in the hundred thousands. For example, the latest winner of the Grand Prix d’Horlogiere de Genève’s Complication Prize, Invention Piece 2 – Greubel Forsey (above left), went on sale in 2012 for 730,000 CHF (approximately £0.5 million).

Having said that, landmark pocket-watches that showcase a turning point in horology are essential to the creation of these modern watches. Therefore, it would be fair to say that certain pocket-watches can supersede their modern counterparts. An example as a case-in-point would be a vintage 18K ‘Montre plate à deux’ Breguet pocket-watch (pictured at head of article), first sold in 1814. It was one of the first watches to encase two movements and was seen as Breguet’s very first experimental watch. It is no surprise then, that this key piece to the horological jigsaw went up for auction in 2012, with an estimate of 800,000 to 1.4 million Swiss Francs. What is amazing though, is that it actually ended up selling for 4.3 million CHF, such is the demand and collect-ability for these timeless treasures.

For loans against pocket-watches, or for a free valuation,? make sure to contact the borro team today on 0808 163 9537.

Til Next Week

Alas, this was our last new topic in our watch blog. Next week’s final piece will see us summarise all the key information we have gathered over the last 2 months in an attempt to give you the final word on the history and value of watches.

Until next time…

Clocking off, Ed Hallinan and the borro team.

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